Who Will Be The Next Face of The Marvel Cinematic Universe?
Quarantine has no doubt impacted everyone, and of course, the postponed releases of several upcoming movies leaves frequent movie-goers twiddling their thumbs. Marvel enthusiasts are no exception. With the delayed release of Black Widow, fans are left with nothing but time to reevaluate how the last movies ended in relation to what may be next.
For the Uninitiated
The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is the official title of the popular franchise, covering over twenty films and characters in a shared universe. Robert Downey Jr.’s debut as Tony Stark in 2008’s Iron Man served as the beginning of the series. With so many heroes, villains, attacks and events, the phases of the MCU were created to establish a somewhat linear timeline. Phase one consists of Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger and concludes with The Avengers. From there, the phases continued as the films were released.
Marvel Studios LLC is the original owner and creator of twenty-three films, beginning with Iron Man and ending with Spider-Man: Far From Home. Walt Disney Studios purchased Marvel Entertainment with the intention to land future films under the umbrella of Disney. Since Marvel already had several preexisting movie deals underway, Disney’s ownership had little influence until recently. With Tom Holland’s Spider-Man, the relevance of the studios has become increasingly important, as it is clear that Tom Holland was not the first Spider-Man. In fact, there are five other live-action movies about Peter Parker (AKA Spider-Man), made by Sony Pictures Studio. As Spider-Man has become more present in the MCU, the two studios have begun to battle over who holds the rights to the character.
Even though the MCU is an ongoing, expanding film series, the original characters from phase one remained key throughout the past ten years of film. As Marvel’s fanbase and studios said goodbye to both Iron Man and Captain America in 2019’s Avengers: Endgame, the new face of the MCU has yet to emerge. Now Marvel will need other characters to play a larger role in the overall narrative. Which new or existing character will serve as the focus? Who will the next leader of the Avengers be?
Taking the Comics Into Consideration
It’s undoubtedly a difficult task to compare the movies to the comics, as intentions, visions, etc. change so very much in the change/translation of media. Though simultaneously, it is beneficial as comics are what the directors, screenwriters and producers take inspiration from. Comic books are the foundation of every Marvel hero, enemy and situation. The writers then pick a story arc, a villain or three, some superheroes with clashing personalities and make something that combines the two forms of media.
While bringing the classic comic books into the discussion may not be entirely fair, they are a great resource that the fanbase has access to. Looking back to the history of the Avengers– having started with Iron Man, Hulk, Thor and Ant-Man– we can see which characters have yet to be revealed, and which ones may very well be at their end.
With the exception of many TV adapted heroes and villains– Daredevil, Luke Cage, Kingpin, Ironfist, Jessica Jones, and Punisher, all of whom you can watch on Netflix– the pool of candidates grows smaller. Again, referring back to the comics grants the writers access to an entire ocean of marketable characters. While there may be a shortage of pre-existing characters, Stan Lee and the other Marvel comic book writers made sure the fanbase could never grow tired.
The Avengers are Earth’s Mightiest Heroes!
As the Avengers have been the center of the MCU, it’s probable that our next face will become the next leader of Earth’s mightiest heroes.
The Guardians of the Galaxy, while entertaining, are just that– guardians of the galaxy– not Earth. While Peter Quill is half-human, he is not bound to Earth in the same vital way as Stark or Rogers. Each of the Avengers, aside from Thor, is unalterably loyal to mankind; a key characteristic that the guardians lack. As we try to narrow down the choices of who the next face may be, Rocket, Drax and the team just aren’t optimal. Despite their heroic contribution and aid to Earth’s mightiest heroes, the guardians’ motive was strictly in relation to Gamora and Thanos. Additionally, their style is far too chaotic to be protectors of the Earth, and frankly, they wouldn’t be around a lot.
Avengers: Infinity War showed us that Doctor Strange’s motivations revolve around the concepts of time, and are further restricted by his lack of interest in collaboration. Not only is Doctor Strange a loner, with the exception of Wong, he is also multiversal. These are just a few reasons why Benedict Cumberbatch’s character probably will not be the representative of the MCU, so to speak.
Similarly, Ant-Man hardly makes sense as his character provides a more comedic tone, often resembling the archetypal “first to die” character. Ant-Man’s solo story is good, and he was key in the events of Endgame, but he cannot replace Tony Stark or Captain America.
Continuing the Process of Elimination
Avengers: Endgame left us with a handful of characters whose stories had really only just begun. Unfortunately, a few of them have been plucked from the big screen and placed on Disney’s streaming service. Now that Spider-Man: Far From Home has been released, Disney calls the shots. The upcoming shows include:
- The Falcon and the Winter Soldier
If we’re suggesting the new face of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’d have to be in the theatres, right? If so, we can cross Hawkeye, Loki, Falcon, Bucky, Scarlet Witch and Vision off as their characters will likely finish their arcs on that platform.
Realistically, phase two of the MCU is still developing, so not every show or movie will take place after Thanos’ famous end. That nascent second phase narrows our candidates a bit further, as ideally, the face should be someone who has a future beyond phase three.
While Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow is finally getting her own solo film, the character’s demise prevents any appearances beyond phase three of the MCU. Her death– albeit an emotional one– wasn’t nearly as perfect as the others’ departures. In the 10 years that Marvel had Black Widow, her character arc was ignored, and the most attention she received was an updated hairstyle. Natasha Romanoff aided the development of other characters such as Bruce Banner and Hawkeye, furthering their narratives with what could be called “a woman’s touch.” Black Widow’s fans were given only a preview of her origin story in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Flashbacks of “the red room” were induced by Scarlet Witch, and the knowledge of Natasha’s infertility was the result of a conversation with Banner. In short, Black Widow may not be a candidate for the face of the MCU, but her solo has the potential to allow the character some much needed peace.
Ultimately, Avengers: Endgame was the finale for the original Avengers. Aside from his miniseries, Hawkeye is not likely to reappear in a larger role. Similarly, Thor: Love and Thunder is probably going be Thor’s last hurrah in phase three.
What’s Actually Next
By taking a peek at some of the films Disney has lined up for the future months and years, it’s fair to say that they know the challenge they face. With an assortment of one-off movies coming to theatres, it’s in the air. The upcoming films include:
- Black Widow
- The Eternals
- Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
- Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
- Spider-Man 3
- Thor: Love and Thunder
- Black Panther 2
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3
From his quirky debut in Captain America: Civil War to his unforgettable performance in Avengers: Infinity War, Tom Holland’s Spider-Man has stolen the hearts of Marvel’s fanbase. In 2019’s Spider-Man: Far From Home, Peter Parker wrestles with the aftermath of Endgame, and more importantly, Tony Stark’s absence. Spider-Man’s internal struggle throughout the movie produced a necessary layer to the character’s depth.
In the last eighteen years, seven solo (live-action) films have been made with three separate actors playing Spider-Man. First, there was Tobey Maguire who starred in the first three movies, followed by two more with Andrew Garfield and, hopefully, continuing with Tom Holland’s version. With that being said, is there enough story left to sustain another phase?
Marvel Studios’ Kevin Feige announced that a third film with Holland will be in the works for 2021 and may appear alongside some other fan-favorite heroes in the future. According to an article in the New York Times written by Mariel Padilla, Feige said, “Spider-Man is the only hero with the superpower to cross between Sony and Marvel’s cinematic universes.”
Valkyrie, Captain Marvel or Black Panther?
In the unforgettable third installment of the Asgardian hero, Thor: Ragnorak, Marvel introduced Valkyrie, a Herculean woman who, at first, came off as drunkenly sarcastic. Beyond question, Valkyrie was quickly accepted and loved by fans in both Thor: Ragnorak and Avengers: Endgame. Her potential as the new face of the MCU is great. Comic books may stereotypically be an interest among more boys than girls, but in today’s growing society, young girls may look at Valkyrie and see someone whose values, morals and hardships resemble their own. It goes without saying that a female face for the MCU would be satiating to many.
The anticipation preceding the release of 2019’s Captain Marvel was intense, and did not disappoint. Captain Marvel’s debut grossed over four hundred million dollars and received a plethora of praise across the globe! Not only is she a worthy nominee for the MCU financially, but also in practicality. Carol Danvers, or Vers, has a lot more to offer. Her name is Captain Marvel after all, so why wouldn’t she take the wheels now that the Avengers (as we’ve known them) are done? Even so, Endgame established that Danvers does not spend a lot of time on Earth, so she may not be available. Like the Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain Marvel is classically bound to Earth.
From the pool of existing and remaining characters, Black Panther already has the resources, recognition, charisma and strength to fulfill this role. Just as a woman would be an optimal, socially aware choice, so would an African American man. It is difficult to ignore these kinds of politics as these are things that studios look for. King T’Challa clearly has more to offer than his ethnicity. As Black Panther was another Marvel gem that quickly grabbed the world’s attention, Chadwick Boseman’s character very well could be the newest face of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe.
In the last decade of the MCU, fans have gathered outside of movie theatres, excited to see what their favorite band of heroes might face next. No matter what, they bought a ticket. So much time, love and money was invested into the Avengers saga. While the Avengers faced more than the big screen showed, it couldn’t last forever without being dulled. It was a matter of time, and here we are.
It will take time for Disney to create the perfect comeback, especially after ending on such a high note. Disney faces a true challenge if they intend to keep the same momentum that came with the Avengers. The “leftover” roster of character arcs pales in comparison to the development that the original Avengers team received.
Each character had a reason to be loved with various scenes that quickly became fan favorites. When the Hulk faces Loki in the first Avengers movie, he interrupts Loki’s speech by grabbing his legs and smashing him over and over. To put the cherry on top, Hulk iconically regarded Loki as a “puny God” while he walked away.
Small, deliberate moments like these furthered our collective adoration for our heroes; and as the curtains closed, everyone came to a bittersweet realization: that the Avengers as we knew them were concluding. Avengers: Endgame was, well, the end; everyone knew it, but there was more to feel. Fans left the theatres with tears in their eyes. While the events of Endgame were frustrating and sad, there was also a satisfaction that followed.
Considering all of this, the question must be addressed: will the MCU ever be the same? Is a “cooling off” period a good idea? By introducing new characters, and producing sequels, a new development could very well be underway.
But, for argument’s sake, does there have to be a new face? Maybe the initial question was posed poorly. Whether or not there’s a new face, it is clear that with Sony’s Morbius and Venom 2, the plausibility of Spider-Man’s exit due to licensing remains unclear. As both are grand enemies of Peter Parker, Sony is positioning themselves to be able to continue with Spider-Man, regardless of their deals with Marvel Studios. An agreement beyond two more films– produced by Disney– has not been reached, and while both studios want to collaborate in favor of the fanbase, it’s ultimately up to the executive boards.
Realistically, whether Sony and Disney can make a lasting deal, fans want Tom Holland to continue as Spider-Man, just as Tom Holland hopes to keep the “Peter tingle.” After three years of going back and forth, ultimately the fans are carrying the torch until a deal is made. So, if you’re fighting for Holland, it’s time to make some noise. But, if the worse case is his departure, both Disney and Sony have enough momentum to continue to thrive.
Again, this is a boolean function. If Spider-Man remains, he’s the perfect face, as he is practically Tony Stark’s heir. But, if he does leave, Valkyrie, Captain Marvel or Black Panther may very well be our new face of the MCU.
What do you think? Whose character arc do you want to see step into the light as the new leader of the Avengers? Will Carol Danvers come back to Earth? Could Wakanda expand like the end of Black Panther suggested? And what’s your favorite scene starring an original character?
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